Excitement Builds as NASA’s Mars Perseverance Launch Nears

Mars Perseverance rover
The Mars Perseverance rover will lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday, July 30. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

A historic mission years in the making is now less than a week from liftoff.

Final preparations are being made for launch of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, targeted for Thursday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Perseverance will lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling of pride and accomplishment — mixed with the excitement and nervous apprehension — that goes with this final stage of the mission,” said John Calvert, Mars 2020 Mission Manager for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), which is based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is managing the launch.

The team has successfully overcome obstacles and challenges along the way, including working through a worldwide pandemic, to remain on schedule for launch.

Mars 2020 Mission Manager John Calvert

“Just throw COVID-19 on the pile of unexpected things that NASA and its incredible teams have been able to respond to and deal with for decades,” Calvert said. “It’s part of our DNA: work hard and solve the problems as they present themselves. Whatever it takes — simple as that.”

Live launch coverage will begin at 7 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website. The broadcast will capture major milestones as Perseverance starts her seven-month journey to the Red Planet. A postlaunch news conference is planned from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Several events leading up to launch also will be broadcast on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

  • Monday, July 27: Prelaunch news conference, from 1 to 2 p.m. NASA Associate Administrator for Communications Bettina Inclán will host the event, featuring NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen, Launch Director Omar Baez from LSP, and ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno. A Mars 2020 Mission Engineering/Science Briefing will follow, from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 28: NASA Edge Rollout Show, from 10 to 11 a.m.; Mars 2020 Mars Sample Return Briefing, from 2 to 3 p.m.; and Mars 2020 Mission Tech and Humans to Mars Briefing, from 4 to 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 29: Briefing with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, Kennedy Director Bob Cabana and astronaut Zena Cardman, from noon to 1 p.m.

Perseverance will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, touching down on the surface of Jezero Crater. About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance will carry seven different scientific instruments. The rover’s astrobiology mission, developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, will search for signs of past microbial life. It will characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Attached to the belly of the rover and weighing less than four pounds is NASA’s Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

For more information on Perseverance and its mission, visit the mission website. Follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020 for live countdown and launch coverage.

NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Gets a Boost

Mars Perseverance rover booster offload
The United Launch Alliance booster for NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is offloaded from the Antonov 124 cargo aircraft at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on May 19, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

With the addition of a powerful piece of hardware, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover continues to progress toward its much-anticipated launch in less than two months.

The spacecraft’s booster arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Skid Strip on Monday, May 18. It was then offloaded and taken to United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center.

Mars Perseverance rover booster arrival
The Antonov 124 cargo aircraft, carrying the United Launch Alliance booster for NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, taxis off the runway at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 18, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Perseverance remains on track for its targeted mid-July launch. The rover will liftoff aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is managing the launch.

Perseverance will reach the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. After the rover enters the thin Martian atmosphere, the descent stage — utilizing a tether of nylon cords — will lower Perseverance to the surface of Jezero Crater.

Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life. Ingenuity, the twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to Perseverance, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

For more information, visit the mission website.

Wheels, Parachute Installed on Mars Perseverance Rover

Wheels are installed on NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 30, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

The assembly, test and launch operations team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, making significant strides in preparing the agency’s Mars Perseverance rover for its planned July 2020 launch. Final assembly and testing of the rover continue at Kennedy, including the recent installation of its wheels and parachute.

The rover received its six flight wheels on March 30. The wheels are re-engineered versions of the ones NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has been using on the Red Planet.

Perseverance, which was developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, will liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch. The rover will land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

NASA Shows Perseverance with Helicopter, Cruise Stage Testing

NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020.
NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The Mars 2020 mission involving NASA’s newly named rover — Perseverance — received a significant boost following the completion of important testing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Activities to measure mass properties of the Cruise Stage vehicle were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Successful testing also was performed on NASA’s Mars Helicopter, which will be attached to Perseverance. The functional test (50 RPM spin) was executed on the stand in the airlock. This marked the last time the rotor blades will be operated until the rover reaches the Martian surface.

The NASA Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will remain encapsulated after landing, deploying once mission managers determine an acceptable area to conduct test flights.

NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020.
The NASA Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

On March 5, 2020, NASA announced Perseverance as the new name for the ars 2020 rover. Alexander Mather, a seventh-grader from Virginia, provided the winning name for the rover with his entry in the agency’s Name the Rover essay contest.

Perseverance will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket is targeted for mid-July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance was developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The mission aims to search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

For more in-depth information, visit the mission’s website.

Mars 2020 Rover Makes its Way to Kennedy

Mars 2020 rover arrival at Kennedy
The Mars 2020 rover is offloaded from a C-17 aircraft at the Launch and Landing Facility, formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 12, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Leaving from its temporary home at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the Mars 2020 rover completed a cross-country trip Wednesday afternoon. It arrived on a C-17 aircraft to the Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Mars 2020 rover delivered to Kennedy Space Center
After its arrival at Kennedy from California, the Mars 2020 rover is prepared to be moved to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility for unboxing. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The spacecraft was then moved to Kennedy’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF), where it is being unboxed today. Before making the trek to the Florida spaceport, the Mars 2020 rover traveled about 70 miles southeast from JPL to March Air Reserve Base.

Carrying seven different scientific instruments, the Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, is targeted for mid-July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover was developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The mission aims to search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

Last month, multiple important tests were performed on the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell inside the PHSF, including measuring the center of gravity and moments of inertia on the spin table, as well as lift activities. The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, on Dec. 11, 2019. The spacecraft was manufactured at JPL.

Check out the mission’s website for more in-depth information on the Mars 2020 rover.

Mars 2020 Rover’s Heat Shield, Back Shell Arrive at Florida Spaceport

The heat shield and back shell for the Mars 2020 rover
The heat shield and back shell for the Mars 2020 rover are unboxed inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 13, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Two vital pieces of equipment for the Mars 2020 rover were flown from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, and recently delivered to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center.

The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) on Dec. 11, 2019, and were then transported to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Built by Lockheed Martin Space, these two essential parts of the spacecraft will protect the rover during its passage to Mars. The Mars 2020 rover is being manufactured at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and, once complete, will be delivered to Kennedy in mid-February, 2020.

Unboxing of the Mars 2020 heat shield and back shell
The heat shield and back shell will protect the Mars 2020 rover during its passage to Mars. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

As the spacecraft descends through the Martian atmosphere, the heat shield will encounter extreme amounts of friction, creating temperatures as high as about 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The back shell contains several elements critical to landing the rover, including the parachute and antennas for communication. Some of these key components will be integrated in the months to come by the NASA-JPL team at Kennedy.

The mission is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, procured by NASA’s Launch Services Program. It will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover will carry seven different scientific instruments. Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the mission aims to search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

Visit the mission website for more information.